Kingston, Jamaica Report of what it's like to live there - 05/31/10

Personal Experiences from Kingston, Jamaica

Kingston, Jamaica 05/31/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This was not my first one, I have lived in Prague, and Bugerest, Romania.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

My home base is Toronto, Canada. It takes about 5 hours to get there, most flights have to layover in Miami.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Lived there 2 years ago for 8 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

My father got a job there.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most expats live in a compound with a fence around it. Most compounds have a pool and gym. I feel very safe in them, as the secerity is very good in these compounds.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can find everything here. Most things are imported from the US, so you will be able to find your favorite American product. The cost is more than in the USA.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Movies and books.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All fast food is here. You will find the same fast food you find in America or Canada. Same prices, too.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There is not really a problem, but as in all tropical locations there are a lot of mosquitoes and ants.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

There is one post office at the only safe mall in town.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available and fairly cheap

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, most compounds have gyms.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

There are not to many ATM machines, and when you find one, expect to pay a fee. So you should take a bunch of money out. However, do not carry it around. Keep most of it at home.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Many.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There is the daily Gleaner newspaper, and it is in English. All TV is in English and available.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is the national language.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. No ramps, no elevators, missing sidewalks, etc.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Trains and buses are not safe, so do not even think about using one. Taxis are safe, but make sure they have a license and are not just pretending to be a driver for money. I have heard of that happening.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring a big car with good wheels. The roads are bad here, and there is not much service.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, available and same price as in America.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get one when you arrive, there are many places to get one.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, Jamaica is the 3rd-most dangerous country in terms of crime. Every day there are murders, rapes and break-ins. We heard gunshots a few times, and we were in the safest area in Kingston. Also, do not walk alone, ever, and never take a walk at night - even with other people. If you want to take a walk it has to be day time. Be with a group, do not carry much money with you, and no valuables. Also, most expat homes have an armed guard.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No health concerns, and the medical facilities are good. But for any major issues or surgeries, you will have to go to Miami.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Tropical and warm all year.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is one international school, it is an American school. I went there and did not enjoy it at all. Many teachers seem poorly trained and unable to handle special-needs children.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None. I had major problems going to school here. I do not have specific special needs, but when I had trouble with something, they did not offer any help at all. It is like they do not even care.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There is one at the American School.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I think the American school has some.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Not much in Kingston. There is one safe mall in the Sovereign center, and it has a movie theater, food court, grocery stores and 2 floors of shopping. Other than that, there is hanging at your compound, swimming, partying, dinners and you neighbors, and hanging at home.

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3. Morale among expats:

Ok, but most people hate not having freedom, and they always have to watch their backs becuse of the crime issue.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

No/no/no, as it is not safe and there is very little to do, especially for families with kids.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Gays seem to have no issues here,

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There are none of these issues.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Experiencing a new country and culture.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Get out of Kingston! There are many things to do elsewhere. There are the blue mountains nearby, and there are many tourist towns that are so much safer than Kingston. Go to Negril or Montego Bay. There are also nice beaches there. There are many tourist things in Jamaica, such as Dolphin swimming, zip lining, and beaching.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

None.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great Weather all year 'round.

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11. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No, because I did not like having no freedom. I did not like not being able to go for a walk at anytime, and I hated being trapped in the compound all weekend and summer.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter gear and your sense of freedom.

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3. But don't forget your:

movies, books, and tons of toys if you have kids and infinite patience.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a high-crime post, you need to seriously consider whether it is worth coming here.

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